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229

trowel

OLogy Series
tool
card
229

trowel

OLogy Series
tool

Archaeologists use many kinds of tools when they excavate, from large shovels to toothbrushes. But the trowel is their most common tool. A trowel is a small handheld spade. It has a flat blade like a pancake spatula, and often has a pointed tip. Trowels are used for cleaning surfaces and carefully exposing new levels of soil. They help uncover fragile artifacts without harming them.

A popular kind of trowel among archaeologists is called the Marshalltown trowel. This important tool is a favorite because of its:

strong welded handle

high-quality steel

both

Are you right?

Correct!

Named after a town in Iowa where it is made, the strong handle on the Marshalltown trowel keeps it sturdy, and the steel holds its shape even after lots of use in the field.

Davis Hurst Thomas, archaeologist

A trowel helps me to scrape carefully. It's my responsibility as an archaeologist to disturb the ground as little as possible.

All trowels look the same, and archaeologists tend to use whichever one is available.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

Trowels come in many shapes, sizes, and even colors. Archaeologists may even personalize their trowels by reshaping their blades.

You can tell whether an archaeologist is right-handed or left-handed by looking at her trowel.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

You can tell which hand is used to hold the trowel by looking at how the blade is worn down. Most archaeologists use the same trowel again and again.

Definition: a small handheld tool with a flat pointed blade
Purpose: used for scraping away dirt to uncover fragile objects
Other common digging tools: shovels, dental picks, scoops, toothbrushes, paintbrushes
Cool fact: Archaeologists often carve their initials into the handles of their trowels.

Image credits: David Hurst Thomas: courtesy of AMNH.